The Family: Fundamentalists Preaching A Gospel Of American Empire



In his new book, The Family, journalist Jeff Sharlet takes us inside Christian fundamentalism’s most elite, disturbing and secretive organization. The Family is fundamentalism’s avant-garde, on a mission to wage a spiritual war in the halls of American power and around the globe. They consider themselves the “new chosen”, Senators, Congressmen, Generals and foreign dictators who meet in confidential cells, to pray and plan for a “leadership led by God”.

The Family is about the other half of American Christian fundamentalist power- not its angry masses (see photos)- but its elites. Jeff Sharlet follows the story of the group back to its founder, Abraham Vereide, a preacher who in 1935 organized a small group of businessmen sympathetic to European fascism, combining the far-right with his own brand of authoritarian faith.

From that core, Vereide built an international network of fundamentalists who speak the language of establishment power. In public, the Family host the National Prayer Breakfast, in private they preach a gospel of “biblical capitalism”, military might and American empire. Citing Hitler, Stalin and Mao as model leaders, the Family’s current leader, Doug Coe, declares “We work with power where we can, and build new power where we can’t”

The Family has operated secretively with the help of influential politicians, who are members of the group, to promote their anti-gay, anti-abortion and pro-free market ideas in America and other parts of the world. However, two sex scandals involving people connected with the Family, Nevada Senator Ensign and South Carolina Governor Sanford, have brought public attention to the group. Also, both Bart Stupak and Joe Pitts are connected to the Family, they introduced the amendment to the health care bill that would prevent funds to cover abortion. Overseas, in Uganda, the Family is connected to a proposed anti-gay legislation that could sentence so called “repeat offenders” to the death penalty.

“The founder of the group, Abraham Vereide, said that God came to him one night in April 1935 and told him Christianity has been focusing on the wrong people; the poor, the suffering, the down and out. Vereide said that “God told him” to be a missionary to and for the powerful, the ones he called the up and out. They could dispense blessing to everybody else through a bizarre kind of trickle-down religion,” Jeff Sharlet told NPR’s Terry Gross in an interview on November 24.


4 Responses to The Family: Fundamentalists Preaching A Gospel Of American Empire

  1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1SJD
    November 27, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    This signals what historian Will Durant meant, when he said great societies destroy themselves from within before they are destroyed from without….

  2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1SJD
    November 28, 2009 at 10:49 am

    This seems equally relevant, as well: psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan reversed novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s quip, “If God is dead, everything is permitted.”…

    Lacan states, “If God exists, everything is permitted”–everything from the Bush’s Iraq War to Bin Laden’s 9/11.

    Fundamentalists validate their violence and ignorant beliefs, by irresponsibly passing them off, onto their infantile conception of “God”.

    Theologians, like Paul Tillich–who defines “God” as the “ontological ground of existence”, desperately need to be injected into our culture again, in order to save religion from itself (and to save us from fundamentalist religions).

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1Dave
    December 1, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    One of the many, many problems, I think, is overpopulation. I think it has many adverse effects that we may not see so easily. Like creating a power struggle that balloons as the population balloons. The more people there are, the more people there are on ALL sides…..each one (side) vying for it’s “rightful place” in the natural order of things. And, as with any power struggle, it just leaves a mess that we try to fix by exerting our own proper power back into it, and making it worse. Of course this is IRrelevant, because there is no way to stop population increase save for a drastic and dramatically immoral decision like removing health care or hoping for the next disaster…..or waiting for people to stop procreating so much…..equally as UNlikely…, and so I admit that I’ve had one pint too many, and am in a sober mood. And the paradox is making me irritable. So my final comment, as will be my answer to every issue until it really starts happening, is education reform. How we educate, what we teach, how we measure success (do we ever really know anything, or are we learning always, so no one is above another in the educational sense.(young can teach old, naive can teach “learned”…that sort of thing.)) sorry…first blog, long one. thanks for listening if you did

    • Vote -1 Vote +1SJD
      December 1, 2009 at 11:50 pm

      Very nice observation on overpopulation. (It makes me wonder if any scholar has published an investigation along your same thoughts, here).

      I can say this, though; biologist E. O. Wilson documents, in “The Future of Life”, that the levels of birth rates in Western industrial societies, while they reached a critical climax around 1964, has been steadily declining for various, benign cultural reasons since. Thus, Wilson argues, the population problem, with slight coaxing from governments, will likely correct itself.

      And I agree entirely with your emphasis on education as part of a potential solution. I’d add to that, that Western society needs to get over its designation of discussing psychoanalysis as taboo. Overcoming that could launch almost unimaginable progress.

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